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Nick Clegg announces changes to parental leave today - What do you think?

(155 Posts)
JaneGMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Nov-12 09:41:33


Justine has been asked to comment on Sky News and BBC News about the changes to parental leave announced today by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg:

The changes include:

- Parents will be able to share parental leave - so after the mother takes the initial two weeks after the birth, parents will be able to divide up the remaining 50 weeks between them as they wish.

- Fathers will gain a new right to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments.

- Paternity leave will remain at two weeks, to be reviewed in 2018.

- The Government will legislate to extend the Right to Request Flexible working to all employees, not just parents. So, for example, grandparents could apply for flexible working to help care for their grandchildren.

What do you think? We'd really value your views on these changes.

Many thanks,


Vickimumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Nov-12 12:57:34

Some of our members of the Family Friendly programme are already stepping up to the mark and doing things like allowing paid time off for Fathers to attend antenatal appointments. Our worry is in MNHQ FF team (that's a bit of a mouthful) that the already very very confusing entitlements will become even more confusing. We work on this stuff full time and we have to have a little sit down in a dark room every year after we've read all of the various entitlements, enhancements and policies confused

ZombieOnABicycle Tue 13-Nov-12 13:00:19

I would be concerned about how this affects families where the woman is the only working partner, in our case we'd not benefit anything.

When I was pg with DD DP's company gave him paid time off to attend all ante natal appointments, scans, classes and emergency appointments, I think this should be the law. Just to add in this case it was a small company where DP had no one to cover his job while he was out, but they still supported him.

I think the 2 weeks should be extended to 6 weeks for both mums and dads, as many have already pointed out, you're not healed after 2 weeks, especially if you've had a c-section, and I worry the 2 weeks would make mothers feel they had to return to work after 2 weeks.

I do think sharing the parental leave is a great step forward - but I think we really need to look at increasing the statutory maternity pay before we look at anything else, as I know financial pressure alone was the primary factor to many of the mums in my area returning to work as soon as 6 weeks after the birth, in some cases with no family support.

sleepyhead Tue 13-Nov-12 13:00:41

mentlejen - the minimum time a women must take after childbirth before returning to work isn't changing. It's always been 2 weeks.

I think you're maybe confusing it with the 6 weeks at 90% of salary that you get with SMP which means that many women who can't afford to take mat leave at the standard weekly rate go back to work at this point.

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 13:01:34

I'm really concerned about the ability to return to work 2 weeks after giving birth. Whatever the intention, this will be translated into expectation and pressure in some situations meaning that some women may have a hard time saying no to this. There is no way I could have been back at work 2 weeks after the 1st. Why has this changed from 6 weeks? Is there any medical advice involved in that change?


janeejane Tue 13-Nov-12 13:06:54

A small change few will be able to take up - used perhaps to make the govt look like they are doing something to avoid demands for bigger changes in maternity allowance and the ridiculous expense of child care.

sleepyhead Tue 13-Nov-12 13:08:54

But Zombie, this doesn't benefit families where the dp is the only working partner either confused?

Unless your partner can't care for a child by himself, which obviously puts you in a doubly difficult position as parent and carer, then you're in the same situation as a SAHM where the downside is that you're on one wage, but the upside is that you have no childcare costs.

Ellypoo Tue 13-Nov-12 13:11:34

They seem ok and should help employment prospects for women of childbearing age hopefully, if men actually do start to share the parental leave with the mums.

My DH is self-employed though, so it won't benefit us in any way, unless they were to bring in a 'paternity allowance' similar to statutory paternity pay for the 2 weeks paternity leave.

Think it's good that fathers will be able to attend up to 2 antenatal appointments - to help support their partners' at scans/consultant appointments. My DH hasn't been able to ever come to any of my scans or anything, and he feels like he isn't supporting me properly, but it's because they are always on days that he can't take off, or too short notice to be able to rearrange clients.

The cost impact of these changes on smaller, private sector employers is minimal, and, as i said above - should help them feel more confident about employing women (even though it is illegal to discriminate, you can be certain that many employers are put off employing women because of potential disruption and cost if they were to fall pregnant)

PurpleGentian Tue 13-Nov-12 13:13:08

I think that this is a fantastic step in the right direction, and a positive thing for improving equality for women.

Hopefully over time, this will reduce discrimination against women of childbearing age in the workplace - I know it's illegal already, but there are employers who are reluctant to employ or promote women in case they get pregnant and take a year off.

It's good for families, especially ones where women are the main earner, because now they'll have much more flexibility and choice over how much time each parent wants to, or can afford to, take off with the baby.

I know that not all families will be in a position to benefit - I'm assuming that this option will only be open to families where both parents are eligible for statutory maternity and paternity leave - but it's still a positive step forward.

And I don't agree that this move will now put women under pressure to return to work after 2 weeks. Compulsory maternity leave is already 2 weeks, so employers who are keen on a women returning to work ASAP after birth are already in a position to put pressure on women. I don't see how these new proposals would make that more likely.

I also agree that more needs to be done with regard to affordable childcare to really give parents more choice over work-life balance once parental leave has run out.

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 13:16:40

@zombie @sleepyhead but why should benefit for people in work benefit people who are not in work, like SAHM and SAHD?

It's a bit rich to say, but I don't work, why can't I benefit from work benefits?

Maternity pay does need to be higher for longer though. I would propose everyone gets 50% pay for three months rather than 90% for 6 weeks which is just v confusing tbh.

Ellypoo Tue 13-Nov-12 13:17:30

ethelb - it is currently the law that the mother has to take a legal minimum of 2 weeks off after the birth (4 weeks if she works in a factory) - this isn't going to change. I think the 6 weeks you are thinking about are that the first 6 weeks maternity leave are paid at 90% (SMP) - this is unrelated to the minimum amount of maternity leave.

Dahlen Tue 13-Nov-12 13:19:24

Sharing parental leave rather than it all being given to the mother is a huge step forward and long overdue. Very pleased about that.

However, I'd like the wording to be changed to primary and secondary carer, so that same-sex relationships are included.

My biggest disappointment is that the initial two weeks for fathers really needs to be extended if we are serious about getting more fathers involved in childcare. In reality, sticking at two weeks paternity will result in so-called 'parental' leave being used overwhelmingly by mothers. This is due to the mother's need to be at home during that first month or so, mainly for her physical recovery, but also to establish breastfeeding, etc (which needs to be done successfully if she's to stand any chance of returning to work and BFing by expressing milk). By the time that's happened, the roles of mum and dad will be firmly entrenched and so nothing changes... So to some extent, this is lip service, rather than a real attempt to change things.

Completely support the idea of universal right to request flexible working. But would like to see more onus put on companies to actually grant it. Unless we're talking emergency services or jobs that require work during specific hours, modern technology really means that most jobs should be able to work on flexitime, and it's a misconception that all parents would automatically choose 9.30-14.30 hours. I'm a parent, yet I'd always opt to work nights, for example.

Vickimumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Nov-12 13:19:26

Interesting point about a small change few will take up - we do keep finding in the FF programme that fathers don't take up their current entitlements, and lots don't know about them. Although we are encouraged that so many fathers respond to our staff surveys which shows they are interested and mostly desperate to find out. Just not very often asked! Am curious to know what you think to the rest of the announcement? what about extending the right to wider family members to ask for flexible working? Grandparents and aunts being able to work flexibly to help out with childcare. Will that work or is it window dressing?

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 13:19:35

Yes, I was just talking about smp, which I know isn't related to the minimum amount of time off

sleepyhead Tue 13-Nov-12 13:19:49

ethelb - I agree with you. You can't have paid leave from work when you're not working.

I was just suggesting to zombie that the new legislation doesn't (on the face of it anyway) leave someone with an unemployed male partner any worse of than a man with an unemployed female partner.

mentlejen Tue 13-Nov-12 13:22:32

sleepyhead and ethelb - I've learnt something today, then. I've always worked in places where the policy is no return prior to 6 weeks. I thought they were reflecting the law, but obviously they were just enlightened employers.

So you're advised not to have sex for six weeks, and not to do any serious exercise before then but you can get back to full time work after two weeks?

That's bonkers. (goes off to get better educated on the subject)

sleepyhead Tue 13-Nov-12 13:22:51

I don't think the right to request flexible working is as exciting as it looks tbh. Many women have found that it's a fairly toothless right.

I suspect grandparents and other family members will find it fairly worthless as well, and that an employer who would let you change your hours to look after a dependent would have done that without legislation.

Could be wrong though. Sometimes it takes legislation to make employers think for a second past the kneejerk "impossible".

StuntNun Tue 13-Nov-12 13:25:52

The six weeks rule applies to factory workers. Is that going to change to two weeks or not?

ethelb Tue 13-Nov-12 13:27:22

I think the whole 2 week thing is a red herring tbh. very very few women go back to work after 2 weeks anyway, very few at six weeks even. Are there any figures on these things? What is the average time off?

sleepyhead Tue 13-Nov-12 13:27:39

Factory workers have a 4 week minimum, not 6. As this is for H&S reasons I very much doubt it will change.

Vickimumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Nov-12 13:31:54

we certainly do have lots of programme members who already allow anyone to ask for flexible working - so the good guys do behave well - although they do it because it is good for business as well as employees! I guess it is about whether legislation will encourage some of the not so good guys to step up to the mark. Lots of staff we talk to say that they feel people who are not parents think they get 'perks' - maybe this will help to tackle some of that as well. If it applied to more people maybe we'll start to reach a position where everyone understands that raising kids is a big job and it's in everyone's interests that families can do that easily smile Takes a village and all that cheesy stuff. Sorry - posting from America and have come over all stateside!

Dahlen Tue 13-Nov-12 13:33:21

Vicki as the government are raising retirement age and encouraging us all to move away from family to go where the jobs are, I don't think flexible working for grandparents will amount to very much. Many will be too committed/old/infirm/geographically removed to be of much help, and this is only going to get worse over time. This has important implications for working mothers, as currently 4 in 5 rely on family members for the majority of their childcare. We are actually going to see more women forced to stay at home unless the govt. bring in measures to make childcare more affordable IMO.

However, flexible working is great for people who have other caring commitments, such as partners with disabilities, parents with early dementia, etc.

dreamingofsun Tue 13-Nov-12 13:36:36

vicki - i work for a company that has won good employee of the year type awards and i work from home PT. But this does depend on your manager - some are totally blinkered and will not allow it/ or have some working for them on this basis. And because there are more employees than jobs its meant no promotion; as I'm always in competition with someone who is FT and the recruiting manager doesn't hold the budget just the headcount.

thereonthestair Tue 13-Nov-12 13:42:41

Celine according to the announcements each parent will need to meet the qualifying criteria for leave and/or pay in their own right. Where possible, these qualifying criteria will mirror the criteria for existing entitlements such as maternity pay and allowance and paternity pay and leave. And therefore one assumes for parental leave. If this matches the current law the self employed just don't have the rights of the employees. As I said upthread its a wrinkle to smooth out where one partner is employed and the other self employed. It's currently a mess. I am not entitled to maternity leave as I am not an employee. I can be given it under the terms of a contract, and depending on my NI may get maternity allowance, but I do not get statutory leave, nor the right to go back to the same job (and I do have a job in everything but name as a member of an LLP). If I don't get maternity leave my DH couldn't share it.... now he could get paternity leave, and parental leave, but again I can' get parental leave so again how can DH share it??

GreySquirrel Tue 13-Nov-12 13:42:45

I also wondered about the point of the right to "request" flexible working. They say it wont negatively affect employers because they don't have any obligation to agree to it, so what does it really change? Surely people have always been able to ask for flexible working and the more enlightened employers will try to accommodate, and others will just say no. Will that not be exactly the same situation? Would it not be better to offer more support/free advice to businesses on how to be more creative and make flexibility work for both employer and employee?

olgaga Tue 13-Nov-12 13:48:41

There is absolutely no way I could have returned to work after two weeks. I was in no fit state or even anywhere near it! Nor, for that matter, was any mum I know.

How the hell does this fit in with the "breast is best" guidance?

I'm sure some women would manage it - but certainly not most.

I think it's different too if you have a job which involves quite physical/manual work - being on your feet for 8 hours a day etc.

Which of course the likes of Clegg and Cameron have absolutely no experience of. Or their wives!

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